22 Executives Who Wake Up Really Early

Max Nisen
richard branson
richard branson

Danny Moloshok/Reuters

Richard Branson, founder and chairman of the Virgin Group.

They say the early bird catches the worm, and nowhere is this old adage more true than in business.

Waking up early allows executives like AOL’s Tim Armstrong and Pepsi’s Indra Nooyi to get a head start on the day, knocking out tasks before the rest of the world is out of bed.

The extra time also gives people the chance to work out and do some of their most valuable creative thinking.

Whether they use the time to catch up on email or take their kids to school, each of these executives make the most of their mornings.

AOL CEO Tim Armstrong

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The former Google executive told The Guardian that he’s “not a big sleeper,” and that he wakes up at 5 or 5:15 every morning to work out, read, tinker with AOL’s products, and answer emails. Armstrong has a driver who takes him to work every day, allowing him to get things done throughout his hour-long commute.

Apple CEO Tim Cook

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The tech titan is known for getting up early. He starts sending out company emails around 4:30 a.m., according to Gawker’s Ryan TateBy 5, he can be found in the gym.

General Motors CEO Mary Barra

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Like her predecessor Daniel Akerson, GM’s current chief executive Mary Barra is an early riser. According to a New York Times profile, she was regularly at the office by 6 a.m., and that was before she even became CEO.

GE CEO Jeff Immelt

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Immelt told Fortune that he gets up at 5:30 in the morning every day for a cardio workout, during which he reads the papers and watches CNBC. He claims to have worked 100 hour weeks for 24 straight years.  

Xerox CEO Ursula Burns

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Burns uses early morning hours to get caught up on emails, getting up at 5:15 and sometimes working until midnight, according to Yahoo Finance.

She also uses the time to fit in a workout, according to Laura Vanderkam’s “What The Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast.” Burns schedules an hour of personal training at 6:00 a.m. twice a week. 

Fiat and Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne

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Marchionne wakes up at 3:30 in the morning to deal with the European market, according to a 60 Minutes profile on his turnaround of Chrysler.

Referring to his schedule and work ethic, one exec is quoted in the FT as saying: “Sergio invented an eighth day and we work it.” In that 60 Minutes special, another exec said: “When it was a holiday in Italy he’d come to America to work. When it’s a holiday in America he goes to Italy to work.” 

PIMCO Cofounder Bill Gross

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Running the world’s largest bond fund from California pretty much guarantees early mornings. According to Fortune, Gross wakes up at 4:30 in the morning to check out the markets, and gets into the office by 6. 

Square CEO Jack Dorsey

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Dorsey described his morning routine to New York Magazine, revealing that he wakes up at 5:30 a.m. to meditate and go for a six-mile jog.

He kept up that routine during a period where he shuttled back and forth between Square and Twitter, spending around eight hours a day at both companies. 

Richard Branson, founder and chairman of the Virgin Group

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In an interview with Business Insider’s Aly Weisman, Branson revealed that he wakes up at around 5:45 in the morning, even when staying at his private island, leaving the curtains drawn so the sun gets him up. 

He does his best to use those early hours to exercise before an early breakfast and getting to work. 

PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi

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Nooyi wakes up as early as 4:00 a.m., telling Fortune that “they say sleep is a gift that God gives you ….that’s one gift I was never given.”

In a speakers series at Pepsi, she revealed that she’s at work every day by no later than 7. 

Virgin America CEO David Cush

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Cush described his morning routine to the AP. He wakes up at 4:15 a.m., sends emails, calls business associates on the East Coast, and that’s before listening to Dallas sports radio, reading the paper, and hitting the bike at the gym.

Disney CEO Bob Iger

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Iger told the New York Times he gets up at 4:30 every morning. He takes the quiet time to read the papers, exercise, listen to music, look at email, and watch TV, all at once. Even though it’s quiet time, he’s “already multitasking.”

Hain Celestial Group CEO Irwin Simon

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Simon accomplishes more before 9 a.m. than most people do all day. He wakes up 5 a.m., going through emails and calling operations in Europe and Asia. He also prays, walks the dog, and exercises before his kids wake up. He arrives at his office on Long Island usually after squeezing in a breakfast meeting in Manhattan, as well.

Former PepsiCo CEO Steve Reinemund

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Now the dean of Schools of Business at Wake Forest University, the long-time head of Pepsi told Yahoo Finance that he would be out of bed at 5:30, already reading the papers. He would go through The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, and The Dallas Morning News before heading to work.

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz

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Schultz starts his day with a workout, which is usually a bike ride with his wife, but still gets to the office by 6 a.m., according to Portfolio.com.

Aurora Fashions CEO Mike Shearwood

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As head of one of the UK’s trendiest fashion companies, Shearwood’s day starts early. Shearwood wakes up at 5 a.m. in order to travel from Nottingham to London in time for a 7:45 arrival. He loves the long commute both ways: “I catch up on emails and work, as well as speaking to teams on the phone.”

Brooklyn Nets CEO Brett Yormark

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The youngest CEO in the NBA told SellingPower that he gets up at 3:30 in the morning in order to get to the office by 4:30. From there, he works out and sends motivational emails to his team.

He takes it easy on the weekends, arriving at the office by 7 a.m. instead.

Former Oxygen Channel CEO Gerry Laybourne

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The founder of Oxygen is awake by 6 a.m. and out of the house a half hour later. If you get up early enough she might even take you under her wing, she tells Yahoo! Finance:

“Once or twice a week, I go for a walk in Central Park with a young person seeking my advice. This is my way of helping bring along the next generation. And if someone is up early in the morning then they are serious about life. I can’t take time at the office to do this, but doing it in the morning allows me to get exercise and stay connected with young people at the same time.”

Saban Capital CEO Haim Saban

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As head of the Saban Capital Group, this Egyptian-born Israeli-American billionaire has his first cup of coffee at 6:02 a.m. and begins work from there. He works for an hour before exercising for 75 minutes to really start his day, according to Yahoo Finance.

Brooklyn Industries CEO Lexy Funk

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The artistic cofounder of the Brooklyn-based clothing and bag shop told the Huffington Post that her routine starts early: “I usually wake up around 4 a.m.” From there, the dilemma of whether to read and bore herself back to sleep or get on her BlackBerry begins. Once online, she’s answering emails and talking to people from Brooklyn Industries.

Starwood Hotels CEO Frits Van Paasschen

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According to “What The Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast,” the former Coors CEO makes a habit of going for a run at 5:50 in the morning and being ready for the day by 6:30. 

Cisco CTO Padmasree Warrior

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Although she doesn’t run right to the office upon waking up at 4:30 a.m., Warrior spends an hour on email, reads the news, and works out. And she is still in the office by 8:30 at the latest, according to Yahoo Finance.  

She was formerly the CTO of Motorola, and has been one of the most highly acclaimed women in business over the course of her career.

Find out how others forged their paths to success.

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